|Our Day in El Cajas National Park|
On Thursday morning the four of us walked to the Cuenca bus terminal, took an early "Cajas-Guayaquil" bus for $2 each, and a scenic and pleasant hour long ride later we were dropped off near the main tourist lodge. Because of the heavy rains all week the park was closed for two days, and we just happened to pick the day when they reopened. I read that it cost $10 per person for the use of the park, but the "joven" who registered us said there was no charge. She then looked a bit concerned at some of our foot gear and warned us that we should stay on the lower trail because the higher paths were very soft and muddy and required high boots (yet, we saw a young man hiking in shorts and sandals this very day - unbelievable!!)
So, how to dress for the Cajas? Layers and warm clothes! Our friends purchased warm jackets the day before our excursion knowing it would be cold at El Cajas elevation (hikes range from 11,000 to 15,000 feet, from what I've read). I had my Gortex raincoat and lots of warm layers underneath, wool socks and hiking boots, a scarf, and a wool hat and gloves. Yes, it was that cold this early overcast and windy morning. I'm glad I did enough research to know the importance of dressing for this occasion. To be cold and wet is a miserable experience when hiking in the mountains. We also brought lots of water and snacks for the day.
After registering, we headed down the wooden stairs for Trail #1. Because it was our first visit to the Cajas, we wanted our day to be leisurely and fun, and we were all aware that we would probably run into some mushy muddy areas along the trail. Our first Caja hike began at 10 am and we were back at the lodge by 3:00 pm. It was a fabulous day of constant weather changes (it never rained - yea!!!) from overcast clouds and chilling winds to warmer and calmer sunny blue skies. The cloud formations were magical, the scenic mountain views were beyond words, and the lakes and foliage were unique and colorful.
Back at the lodge, we sat by a warm crackling fire, finished our snacks with some cold beers, and rested up before heading back to the road and bus shelter. We caught a 4:30 pm $2 return bus to Cuenca and walked into El Centro from the bus terminal. It was a fabulous day for all four of us, and Bo and I look forward to our next trip to the Cajas. If you haven't been to the Cajas, you must! If you are unable to hike, I hope some of my photography will give you an appreciation for this majestic and scenic area of Ecuador. Enjoy!!
|Blog friends, Larry and Bea, are ready to brave the cold! It was fun hiking with two fit and fun "go-with-the-flow" people.|
|It's impossible to describe the beauty and majesty of this area. You have to see it to believe it!|
|We were surrounded by sparkling lakes, sweeping grasses, and bonsai-looking trees along the path.|
|Throughout the day, the weather would change from heavy thick white clouds to patches of clear blue skies. It never rained, and we were thankful for a dry hike.|
|We stopped and chatted with a tour group of Europeans along the trail.....|
|......but most of the day we had the entire area all to ourselves. It was so peaceful and magical.|
|I loved photographing the colorful plants.....|
|......some growing amidst the sweeping tall grasses.....|
|.......others upright and glistening in the sunlight.|
|Many of the plants I have never seen before. I wished they had a pamphlet at the lodge to help identify these unique South American species.|
|Colorful succulent plants and tall bamboo-like grasses bordered the lakes and mountain peaks.|
|Our friends take a break along the trail.|
|Every turn revealed more and more beauty and peacefulness.|
|Sometimes it felt like we could touch the clouds.|
|White rocks and clear blue waters|
|I've hiked through some amazing Cascade mountain ranges in Oregon, but the Cajas took my breath away!|
|We saw beautiful llamas along our journey.......|
|.......jagged mountain peaks......|
|......lush green grasses and foliage......|
|.....and thick clouded skies over glistening waters.|
|No two lakes or mountain ranges looked alike - every turn on the trail revealed the splendor of this area.|
It was one of our favorite days of exploring since coming to Cuenca. Thank you Larry and Bea for joining us and making our day even more special. Now we're ready for our next adventure. I wonder where it will be??